Archive for December, 2009

Dec 30 2009

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Recipes for New Year’s Appetizers

Chances are you are either hosting a New Year’s gathering or attending one. And if you’re taking part in a special get-together, you’ll most likely be serving appetizers or brining a snack to the party you plan to attend. The House Plan Shop is here to help. The following appetizer recipes are some of our favorites. Happy New Year from The House Plan Shop! Enjoy!

 

Brown Sugar Smokies

 

Ingredients:

1 package of cocktail sausages

1 package of maple flavored bacon cut into thirds

1 cup packed brown sugar

Toothpicks

 

1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.    Spray a 9”x13” glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

3.    Wrap each cocktail sausage with a third piece of bacon.

4.    Stick a toothpick through the middle securing the bacon and place in the glass dish arranging in a single layer.

5.    Sprinkle brown sugar over the top.

6.    Bake for 45 minutes or until edges of bacon begin to get crispy.

7.    Serve warm.

 

 

Pizza SticksEasy Pizza Sticks

 

Ingredients:

1 (11 oz) can refrigerated bread sticks

Thin pepperoni slices

Shredded mozzarella cheese or Italian cheese blend

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 tablespoon garlic powder

Pizza sauce

 

1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.    Roll out breadsticks onto an ungreased cookie sheet and separate.

3.    Place two or three pepperoni slices at one end of the bread stick.

4.    Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

5.    Fold remaining half of breadstick over the top, seal the end and twist.

6.    Repeat for remaining breadsticks and arrange on cookie sheet.

7.    Mix together parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic power in small bowl.

8.    Sprinkle over the top of the twisted breadsticks.

9.    Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

10.  Dip in warm pizza sauce and enjoy.

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Dec 22 2009

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Make Christmas Breakfast Special with these Tasty Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon RollsChristmas morning is memorable no matter how young or old we are. Add to the memories of this special day by sharing The House Plan Shop’s favorite, savory cinnamon rolls with your loved ones for Christmas breakfast.

 

Bed & Breakfast Cinnamon Rolls

 

Ingredients:

2 packages of dry yeast

1 egg

1 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons cinnamon

3 tablespoons milk

½ cup white sugar

1 ¼ sticks butter

1 ¾ cups warm water

2 cups brown sugar

5 cups flour

Powdered sugar

Chopped pecans optional

 

Directions:

1.    Combine yeast with water in large mixing bowl.

2.    Add white sugar, 3 cups flour, egg, ¼ stick softened butter, and salt and mix well.

3.    Add remaining 2 cups flour and mix to form soft dough.

4.    Place in a greased bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

5.    The next morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

6.    Roll the dough into a 10”x30” rectangle.

7.    Cut the remaining stick of butter into pats and place them in rows covering the dough.

8.    Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle over the dough and butter.

9.    Starting with one of the long edges, roll the dough tightly into a tube shape.

10.  Cut the dough at 2” intervals with a sharp knife, place into a greased round or oval baking dish.

11.  Bake for 15-25 minutes.

12.  While rolls are baking, combine combine milk and powdered sugar in a small mixing bowl until it is a spreading consistency. (Slowly add powdered sugar so the icing doesn’t get too thick.)

13.  Remove the rolls from the oven and ice with powdered sugar mixture.

14.  Top with chopped pecans if desired.

 

 Please visit our blog next week for more holiday recipes.

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Dec 15 2009

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Live Green: 8 Earth-Friendly Ways to Celebrate the Season

Natural Christmas Decoration‘Tis the season to be jolly….and wasteful. A recent report stated Americans will create an extra 25 million tons of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Think about it. Wrapping paper filling trash cans. Light displays spiking electric bills. Trees jamming up landfills. And the list goes on. But THIS holiday season can be different. The following suggestions will help you change your habits and start a new tradition, celebrating the holidays in amazing earth-friendly fashion.

 

Turn Down the Amps – Leaving your holiday lights on 24 hours a day can significantly raise your energy bill. Use a timer for your light displays ensuring they are not left on all night. Also, when strands of lights wear out, replace them with LED lights which use about 90% less energy than standard mini-lights.

 

Candle Glow – The holidays are the perfect time to light up your home with candles. A decorative arrangement of tall and short candles in a room is usually enough to eliminate some, if not all, overhead lighting. Not only will you save electricity, but the candles will be part of your décor. Furthermore, with the heat from the candles and your own body heat, most rooms will warm up nicely over the course of an evening allowing you to lower the thermostat. The result – you’ll save on your energy bill. Remember to use caution around burning candles.

 

Use Natural Décor – Use locally grown items to decorate your home. Fill a basket with pinecones you collected at the park, and use it as a centerpiece on the dining room table. Snip a few branches from an evergreen bush or tree and create your own wreath for the door. Add pinecones and a bow or tuck citrus fruits into it for a pop of color. Make your own garland for the tree with popcorn, berries and nuts, for example.

 

Cut your Card List – Over 2.6 billing holiday cards are sold each year and most end up in the trash. Trim you card list by just a few recipients and send them an e-card instead. You’ll save on postage and reduce waste. When sending traditional cards, choose cards made of recycled paper. As for the cards you receive, cut them up, they will make great gift tags for next year.

 

Trim Creatively – There is no need to buy all new tree trimmings every year so you can have a new holiday look. Instead, create homemade ornaments. Make popcorn and cranberry garland or pinecone ornaments. Better yet, swap decorations with a friend each year. You’ll always have a fresh look.

 

Consider Alternative Gift Wrap – With so much wrapping paper ending up in the trash each year, use your imagination. Wrap gifts with other items like a colorful blanket, a furry scarf, a T-shirt. Anything that covers your package can work as gift wrap. Or, have your kids decorate used brown paper grocery bags. Put gifts inside the bags and staple them shut. As for the gifts you receive. Open them carefully saving the paper for next year’s wrapping.

 

Reuse Trimmings – Place a container in the middle of the room. Ask everyone to put bows, boxes, gift bags, and ribbons in the box for use next year.

 

Recycle – Face it. Gifts come with lots of wrapping and packaging. As you open gifts, recycle what you can, plastic, paper, cardboard, etc. Don’t stop there. Recycle your tree as well. Check with your local government or municipality. Some places recycle trees into mulch, others use them for animal habitats in parks and lakes. However you choose to recycle your tree, do it responsibly. Make sure all ornaments, hooks, tinsel and light strands are removed. Artificial trees can be recycled too. If you’re tired of your artificial tree, donate it to a church, community center, shelter or another place that decorates for the holidays.

 

The holidays are exciting, fun, and they are major waste makers. Now is the time to do your part and start changing the holidays for the better. These environmentally-friendly holiday tips will get you started.

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Dec 09 2009

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Tips: Decorating your House with Christmas Lights

Christmas LightsNow is the time for people everywhere to get into the holiday spirit. One of the most common ways is by hanging decorations, more specifically decorating homes and yards with Christmas lights. An exterior display of Christmas lights can range from a simple strand of white lights wrapped around the front porch rail to an elaborate display of multi-color lights decking the home and landscaping. No matter how you plan to decorate the outside of your home with lights, these tips will help you hang your holiday lights with less hassle.

 

1.    You will need a ladder, measuring tapes, hooks/light clips, holiday lights, extension cords, a hammer, and an assistant.

2.    Have a plan. Sketch the outside of your house and determine what you want to decorate – the gables and eaves, the windows, porch rails and columns, bushes, every tree branch. Indicate locations of available outlets on your sketch. Measure and label the width and depth of your house. Have your assistant record the measurements. Measure the height of bushes and trees.

3.    Figure out how many lights you will need. Most come in lengths of 25-200 lights. Professionals recommend figuring about 50 lights per foot of height for bushes. If you are using miniature lights, double the number. Decide on a color scheme for your lights and whether you prefer solid, blinking or chasing lights.

4.    Purchase and test lights. Choose lights rated for outdoor use. They are usually more weather resistant and larger and bolder making them stand out against your house, garage and landscaping. Test every string of lights before you hang them. There is nothing more frustrating than hanging the lights and turning them on only to find some of the bulbs do not work.

5.    Hang the lights. Securely place hooks or light clips at regular intervals under the eaves of your home so your lights will not droop. Hang them one strand at a time making sure the strands are tightly connected. You may want to wrap/seal them with electrical tape to help keep rain and snow out. Your assistant will be key at this time holding the ladder, helping hold the lights, etc.

6.    Light trees and bushes. Wrap tree trunks and branches with lights. Wind or zigzag lights throughout each bush. Wrap lights around trellises and other landscape features.

7.    If you need to run extension cords, tape them down so no one trips on them.

 

 

Additional Safety Tips

 

1.    Hang lights on a dry day. It reduces the chance of electrical shock and slipping on the ladder.

2.    Be sure to use lights rated for exterior use. Interior lights are night designed to withstand the elements such as snow and rain.

3.    Use multiple outlets to reduce the load on a single outlet.

4.    Use plastic light clips or hooks. They are much safer for the wires than nails or a staple gun and easier to remove.

5.    Check wires for damage to insulation. Throw away any that are damaged. It is not worth risking a house fire just because you tried to save a couple bucks on cheaply manufactured lights. 

 

 

Think Green

 

1.    Purchase LED lights. They use 80-90% less energy than traditional incandescent lights and some can last up to 20,000 hours. They are also cool to the touch.

2.    Put your holiday lights on a timer. This way you won’t forget to turn them off before bed, and you will save energy by not keeping them lit all night. Besides, there aren’t many people out looking at holiday lights at 3:00 AM anyway.

 

With these helpful tips, you are on your way to hanging Christmas lights outdoors safely, spreading holiday cheer and doing your part for the environment.

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Dec 02 2009

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Helpful Tips for Winterizing your Home

Filed under Home Maintenance

chimney cleaningWinter is fast approaching. It is time to start winterizing your home. Spending a little time everyday over the next week or two will have prepared without adding too many extras to your already long “to do list.” This list of tips will help you.

 

·         Your house is going to be closed up for several months with no fresh air circulating through open windows so take some time to clean the dust off all the things you rarely clean like ceiling fans and blinds. Clean curtains and drapes. Change the filters in humidifiers.

·         Have your furnace serviced by a professional. Check filters and pilot lights.

·         Clean the chimney and flue before you use them.

·         Remove or protect window air conditioning units with durable plastic.

·         Drafts are a major cause of energy loss throughout the cold months and give you a rising energy bill. Check door and window seals. Make necessary repairs. Put up storm windows if necessary.

·         Put away out of season clothing. If you haven’t worn it in the last year put it in a pile for charity. Organize your winter clothing in your closet. Children’s clothing requires a little more thought. Ask yourself if it will still fit next year and if your child likes to wear each clothing piece. For those that you answer “yes” to, determine if they are still in good condition. Put those items in a storage bin for next year. Get rid of everything else and organize winter clothing.

·         Prepare riding mowers, the lawn mower and even tractors for winter storage. Change air filters and spark plugs so you won’t have to do it in the spring.

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